New York: The United States, India and Japan will hold their first trilateral meeting this month in Washington, in the latest sign of the Obama administration's drive to push back against rising Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The meeting, which will be at the assistant-secretary level, is scheduled to be held in Washington on 19 December, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Monday at his daily news briefing.
“This meeting is going to be an opportunity to hold comprehensive discussion on a range of Asia-Pacific regional issues," Toner added.
Asked why India, an Indian Ocean country that has no border with the Pacific Ocean, is being invited to the meeting as one of the "Pacific democracies," Toner answered by saying that "this is a chance for us to discuss regional issues."
Anyone paying attention to President Barack Obama's November trip to Asia and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar saw Washington pushing back against China. While the US was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, China had the room to expand its influence in the region. For the first time since the end of World War II, America’s dominance is being challenged by China which is rapidly emerging as an engine of regional economic growth.
China has advanced its influence in the region, with allies like North Korea, Pakistan and Myanmar. It has established itself as a growing, and sometimes bullying, power in the Pacific, particularly in East Asia. Most of the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have festering territorial disputes with China.
Analysts say rising China has spurred America to consolidate ties with regional powers like Japan, India, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines in a policy "pivot" towards Asia. Instead of focusing on the Middle East, as has been the case for the last decade, the US will now concentrate its power in Asia and the Pacific. America’s new emphasis on Asia and the containment of China also stems from the fact that the Asia-Pacific region now constitutes the center of gravity of world economic activity.
On the first stop of his Asia trip, in Hawaii, Obama barreled into a dispute that has created great concern among China's neighbours over control of sea lanes, minerals and resources in the South China Seas. “Washington demanded that the disagreements be resolved in a multiparty forum, rather than in country-to-country meetings, where China's might is much harder to overcome,” pointed out the “McClatchy Newspapers.”
Beijing has reacted nervously and warned Washington not to take steps which could fan Cold War-style antagonism.
Still, a future India-Australia-US cooperation agreement is being talked about just as the new US-Japan-India trilateral initiative is being formally launched in Washington this month. It is hard to say whether India would ever agree to a three-way security pact with Washington and Canberra as it is wary about annoying its Chinese neighbour. At the same time, India which has long focused its military planning on Pakistan, is worried as China has been bolder in making claims lately on Indian lands in Arunachal Pradesh.
Analysts have said the “new Cold War” is all about the Obama administration seeking allies to place the South China Sea under effective naval control as almost every tanker bringing oil to China travels across it.
“By securing naval dominance of the South China Sea and adjacent waters, the Obama administration evidently aims to acquire the twenty-first century energy equivalent of twentieth-century nuclear blackmail. Push us too far, the policy implies, and we’ll bring your economy to its knees by blocking your flow of vital energy supplies,” Michael T Klare author of "Resource Wars” wrote in the “Salon.”